Everything That Touches Your Baby Is Toxic, But Don’t Worry About It

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Or so a new study published in Environmental Science & Technology says. When Heather Stapleton, of Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, got pregnant in 2009, she decided to lead a team in testing baby products for the presence of retardants.

The team collected baby products from 13 states and looked only at products that contain polyurethane foam because they expected to find high concentrations of flame retardants there. And they did.

Researchers found fire retardants in 80 of the 101 products they tested, including car seats, changing table pads, sleep positioners, mattresses and nursing pillows. A third of the products contain chlorinated tris, the same chemical that was removed from pajamas in the 1970s over cancer concerns. Another retardant, listed as a carcinogen in California (but, then again, what isn’t?) was found in a number of nursing pillows.

The data revealed that one-third of baby products, including nursing pillows contain the chemical called chlorinated tris, which was removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s after raising concerns about cancer.

Okay, so that’s the news that’s supposed to make you freak out. But the study has its critics. For instance, some of the products tested were from 10 years ago or more, before a common flame retardant was phased out and no longer used in products.

Another problem is that the study doesn’t do a good job of calculating the actual risk. It’s not sufficient to say that something has a toxic element. I mean, everything has a toxic element. Freaking oxygen and water are toxic if the dosage is too high. What parents need to know is not whether an element is present in a baby good but whether that element exists to the extent it could harm the baby, whether it can be transmitted and what the actual risk to the child is.

It’s so easy to play on the emotions of parents who want the best for their children, but some responsibility in research and reporting is important, too.

And make sure to take the balloons out of the crib before you put the baby in there.